City ways hard to comprehend

By Glenda Price: New Mexico columnist

Three or four years ago a couple I know purchased a home in a nice subdivision in town. The guy has a special talent regarding plants, and their backyard definitely shows it.

He planted a young weeping willow in the back corner of their yard, and it has become a gorgeous tree.

A few days ago I happened by and saw a man on a bicycle at their house. Large white block letters spelling “CODES” covered the back of his black shirt. He had hung something on my friends’ doorknob. They were both at work, of course.

As he mounted his bicycle to leave I asked him, “What are you doing?”

He replied he was placing a note on my friends’ door about their willow tree.

“What about it?” I asked.

He said their tree hung too far over the yard’s back wall. The only thing past the wall is a narrow sidewalk and then a street. I pointed out if anyone walked down that sidewalk — which was seldom — it would be quite easy to duck under the tree’s branches, and he agreed that was true.

I said, “You people need to get a life.”

He said, “No. The people in this neighborhood need to get a life.”

Stunned, I asked, “You mean people actually called complaining about that beautiful tree?”

He smiled and said, “Yes.” Seeing my incredulity he added, “They call in about every little thing.”

I said, “I’m a country person. I don’t understand this at all.”

Mr. Codes replied, “I’m a country person, too, and I don’t understand these people either.”

Later, I did some research and learned that every city (or town that wishes it were a city) has a list of “codes.” Property owners can be cited for:

• a tree someone considers a nuisance;

• a car parked not exactly in the proper place;

• weeds growing in the yard;

• and numerous other “infractions.”

I’m beginning to see how it is that city people feel it’s their “duty” to report country people when those country folks happen to “inconvenience” the city people in some way. They have been conditioned to believe that private property isn’t really private — anyone at all can involve himself/herself in the property owner’s business. There is no requirement that the complainers understand anything about the country folks’ work.

Every city/town has zoning ordinances, also, so property owners are not allowed to build anything that might interfere with the zoning (like apartments where it’s zoned for single family residences). However, I bet if I were a famous movie star and I wanted to build a castle where the zoning was for small retail, I could easily get a zoning variance. Whining — and money — apparently get the job done in our country.

Now, I find myself believing the veracity of the story about the government mucky-muck who, upon hearing a nearby ranch had problems with its cattle guards, ordered, “You must immediately find all those cattle guards and bring them in for prosecution.”